Hicks Family Farm looks to corn maze for sustainability 

  • Tammy Hicks walks with her granddaughter, Avery Hicks, 7, at the Hicks Family Farm corn maze on Route 2 in Charlemont. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tammy Hicks walks with her granddaughter, Avery Hicks, 7, at the Hicks Family Farm corn maze on Route 2 in Charlemont. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Paul Hicks of the Hicks Family Farm corn maze on Route 2 in Charlemont. Hicks says the farm’s seasonal corn mazes now make up around 70 percent of the farm’s total income for the year. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Paul Hicks of the Hicks Family Farm corn maze on Route 2 in Charlemont. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tucker Hicks, 12, trains oxen Yogi and Buck, trailed by Avery Hicks, 7, at the Hicks Family Farm corn maze on Route 2 in Charlemont. The oxen will be part of the petting zoo. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tammy Hicks walks with her granddaughter, Avery Hicks, 7, at the Hicks Family Farm corn maze on Route 2 in Charlemont. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2019 5:33:23 PM

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a week-long series about the state of farming in Franklin County.

For 90 years, Hicks Family Farm has done everything from raising dairy cows to selling oxen and growing produce.

But, despite the multiplicity of talents and experience, it’s the farm’s seasonal corn mazes that now make up around 70 percent of the farm’s income, and the total bring-in increases by around 5 to 10 percent each year.

For the last nine years, Hicks Family Farm, on Route 2 in Charlemont, has been an autumn stop for those looking to either get lost or get scared. It’s become “our family thing” to make corn mazes each year, said owner Paul Hicks.

“If we could make a living milking cows, we would probably be milking cows to make a living,” Hicks said.

The corn maze is open through October each Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and under. A separate, haunted maze starts Oct. 11 and is open from 7 to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with $9 admission for adults and $6 for children under 12.

Hicks Family Farm’s two corn mazes are side by side in the sprawling field along Route 2. The original corn maze — not the haunted one — always involves some kind of scavenger hunt.

This year, blue ribbons and images of blue ribbons are dispersed throughout the maze, and explorers who count and guess the correct number of blue ribbons — if they get every single one — are given a prize.

Along with the corn maze is a petting zoo, a food vendor and games like mini golf near the maze entrance.

“We’ve always wanted to make it about more than just the maze,” Hicks said. “We always want to keep adding. And we’re not commercialized. We try to talk to everyone who goes in (the maze).”

The spooky, Halloween-themed maze is part of Hicks Family Farm’s Haunted Weekends. On Friday and Saturday nights, the haunted maze — children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult — is filled with terrors like zombies and witches, volunteer actors who might be lurking behind that next labyrinthian corner, or even stalking in the surrounding brush itself.

“I won’t lie — we’re scary,” Hicks said. “My wife came to me one night and said, ‘Talk to these kids.’ They said, ‘We work for Six Flags, and you guys are twice as scary.’”

According to Hicks, people from countries that don’t have Halloween have visited the maze, only to come running out, terrified. The corn stalks are left 10 to 12 feet high to prevent people from being able to fully see their surroundings, he added.

About 25 volunteers stalk the haunted maze, Hicks said, with locals coming to him with the simple, primal request: “Can we scare people?”

The whole maze complex is planted the week before July 4, Hicks said, opening at the end of August.

And it’s quite a project — once the stalks are about 2 to 3 inches tall, they start cutting the paths with lawnmowers and tractors.

About 10 years ago, Hicks’ son, Ryan, came up with the idea for a corn maze at the farm. Hicks’ describes the idea as random — he had never even walked through a corn maze himself before, but knew from word-of-mouth that farmers in the area had done it. Other Franklin County corn mazes include Mike’s Maze in Sunderland and one at Hunt Farm in Orange, which just opened last fall.

With logging backgrounds and the profitability of the farm dwindling, Hicks said he didn’t want his family to work extra as loggers, or have the family’s logging business support the farm. The farm should be self-sufficient, he said, like it’s always been.

“We wanted to find a way to have the farm keep running, not have the logging business support the farm,” Hicks said. “We sell oxen from Canada to Georgia, sell about 46 bull and calves over the year.”

Unlike other corn mazes, the Hicks Family Farm corn mazes aren’t done using GPS technology but are simply imagined “on a rainy day, when we sit down with a pen and pencil,” and then cut.

It’s more than just an entertaining venture; Hicks said the project saves the farm about $2,500 to $3,000 a year on grain costs once they use the finished maze, post-season for feed corn.

According to Hicks, the farm’s mazes have become popular through its own marketing — both online and with physical posters and flyers, as well as by word of mouth.

“We’ve had people come all eight years,” Hicks said. “When those people do the scavenger hunt, if they’re two off, they go right back in. People really start to like it.”

Contact Hicks Family Farm to book an event, like birthdays or company parties. The maze will open on weekdays for parties of 25 or more. Schools are welcome. Call 413-404-5727.

Staff reporter David McLellan joined the Greenfield Recorder in February 2018. He covers Orange, New Salem and Wendell. Reach him at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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